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Development Of A Textile Materials Analytical Laboratory Through Funding From The

National Science Foundation
(All rights reserved by Drs. Mitchell D. Strauss and Annette Lynch)
Project Summary
The purpose of our project was to acquire establish a laboratory, with the appropriate equipment for the
physical testing and analysis of materials used in the manufacture of textiles and apparel. The project
directly addressed two key themes specified in the National Science Foundation’’s Curriculum and
Laboratory Improvement program (CCLI): integration of technology to produce more effective learning
environments for undergraduates and strengthening of undergraduate education by increasing the
participation and success of women in scientific and technical programs. As a collateral benefit, faculty
development was be gained as a result of interacting with the testing equipment.
The addition of new laboratory infrastructure also facilitated purposeful and substantive linkages between
industry and our textile and apparel program. This, in turn, helped create research and educational
experiences that enables our graduates to enter the workforce with advanced technological skills on-par
with professionals currently working in the industry. Technological preparation is increasingly necessary
for graduates to compete for high quality entry level positions in the textile and apparel industry.
Evolutionary changes in how the textile and apparel industry now functions make the advanced
development of student technical competency an imperative. In the past decade, retail organizations have
moved from buying finished products to creating and producing their own product lines. Students
therefore, now need technological skills in product development and testing, in addition to the business
skills of management and marketing. The new laboratory now enables the program to meet the new
academic imperative of improving student technical competence. Furthermore, as a program primarily
serving women, infusion of technology into the curriculum better prepares females to enter the workforce
comfortable and capable of performing within a technological and science-based industry.
Background and Justification
Historically, the textile and apparel industry and related academic programs have been divided upon
gender and geographic lines. The textile and apparel manufacturing belt in the South was served by
Southern academic programs typically housed in engineering and colleges graduating primarily males to
fill entry-level jobs leading to advanced technologically-based positions in the industry. Midwestern
programs such as ours were first formed within home economics curricula, and to this date are dominated
by female students. With the rapid growth of the retail industry in the 1980's most Midwestern programs
focused attention upon graduating students to fill entry-level positions in retail management and
merchandising (Avery, 1989). As a result, product specific skills such as pattern-making, fabrication and
product development were not deemed important and were often removed from curriculum. Furthermore,
technical content, such as in-depth understanding of the physical properties of textile materials, and more
than superficial knowledge of the relationship between materials and manufacturing processes were
typically down-played (Laughlin and Kean, 1995).
Today, academic programs across the Midwest, and the U.S. for that matter, are facing a relevance crisis
because of a significant shift in how the textile and apparel industry is currently functioning. For reasons
having to do with improving profit potential, differentiating product, and increasing product control, a
large portion of the apparel retail sector is shifting away from purchase of Afinished@ manufactured

As more retail organizations design their own merchandise. The purpose of our project was to help position the University of Northern Iowa as a national leader in textile and apparel curriculum reformation. physical testing and analysis is needed to develop adequate prototypes. and is one of the pillars of UNI=s effort to become a leader in the education of product developers for textiles and apparel. U4ia was integrated throughout the curriculum. sophisticated product development software. How The Grant Was Applied As a result of changing business practices. experience with this software will greatly increase the marketability and job potential of our graduates in the areas of design and product development. Despite the fact that products are often sourced overseas.S. Nowadays. Agins. thus the acquisition of U4ia at UNI helped to place the program in a national leadership position. This provision focused on the requirement of graduates having a sophisticated understanding of product quality through physical testing and analysis of textile materials. 1994.2 goods to development and production of their own Aprivate label@ products (Adams. 1999). there is now required a concomitant shift in curriculum as textile and apparel programs adjust to a changing economic landscape (Wicket. such as Lectra=s U4ia is commonly used by industry to develop fabric designs. companies must still ensure that the highest levels of quality are produced for American consumers. In sum. This growth area is almost entirely related to the burgeoning practice of product development in the retailing field.S. woven and printed fabrics. These fabric designs are then used to create in-house or Aprivate label@ apparel and home furnishing lines. Gaskill and Damhorst. 1995). manufacturing is generally done abroad using specifications developed in American companies within the product development division. the evidence indicates that not many. if any.S. U. and to ensure that overseas manufacturers are meeting specifications outlined by product development teams (Wicket. The historical model of retail organizations depending upon apparel suppliers for merchandise has been permanently altered by enterprises that design and merchandise their own products. Gaskill and Damhorst. Unfortunately. 1993. 1989. and then analyze prototype designs to ensure they meet end use requirements from a physical and aesthetic standpoint. Thus. our charge now should be to ensure that our students graduate with newly required technological skills necessary to compete for challenging positions in the reconfigured textile and apparel field. In a practice commonly referred to as sourcing. Very few academic programs have possession of U4ia. Divisions of product development are now increasingly more common in the retail industry which design their own knit. Fickes. As a discipline. Our NSF project was aimed at the other pillar of UNI=s effort to achieve national textile and apparel program leadership. Fox. 1994). There are several key elements to a successful product development effort. With the movement of industry away from buying and toward product development. 1999). The arming of women with advanced product knowledge has the potential to move women into stronger technical leadership positions within textile and apparel organizations. and to serve as a resource of best methods and practices for those programs that choose to adjust at a later date. employment position descriptions within the textile and apparel industry now often require an increasing technical sophistication not currently offered by many academic programs in the U. with the successful acquisition of U4ia software and the new analytical laboratory acquired through this project we were able to put into place two of the essential elements required for a . have made a proactive curriculum adjustment to respond to the evolutionary shifting of retail business practice (Laughlin and Kean. textile and apparel programs in the U.

Textile testing equipment in the new laboratory was introduced and demonstrated and/or used by students as they are initially exposed to analysis of textile materials. Students in this course use testing equipment themselves and are engaged in both testing existing products. At one point we compared the attitudes of students just entering the program. in which students used the textile testing equipment in the new lab. Students gain a beginning appreciation of physical properties of materials through introductory involvement with textile testing equipment. Quality Assurance in Textiles and Apparel This more advanced second level textile science class builds on the previously discussed course. a quantitative assessment of student attitudes was generated from surveys. as well as attempting to create products that meet specific end uses. journals. Seen in Table 1 is a summary of equipment and test procedures to which the students are exposed. one an introductory course that all majors are required to take when initially entering the program. For purposes of cross reference and confirmation. and in the upper level textile testing course. Student Teaching Assistants Every semester one to two students works in the new laboratory under the direction of a faculty member. Impact of the Project During the course of the grant period we generated data to assess the attitudes and experiences of students exposed to our new laboratory facility. The surveys were administered in two courses. In addition. Attitudes of students entering the major and those seasoned with . It focuses upon teaching students how to predict the performance of textile materials in the marketplace through assessment of physical properties. The surveys required the students to rate their level of comfort or interest in science and technology using a 5 point Lickert scale. the student assistants conduct laboratory tests on materials submitted to our lab by industry. Earning a berth as a student assistant is competitive and requires outstanding academic performance by the student when they originally took the class. with those students who have completed the upper level course in which they have had extensive hands-on experience in the textile materials lab Student attitudes were captured qualitatively using participant observations. Specific to this particular project.3 sophisticated textile and apparel product development program. The two related themes of product development and product analysis were integrated throughout courses and projects within the curriculum. the following two courses in our curriculum was where students were directly exposed to experiences within our new analytical laboratory: Introduction to Textile Materials The introductory textile science class in our curriculum provides a basic understanding of the categories and properties of different forms of textile materials. The students earn independent study credit by helping the faculty prepare for and teach laboratory sessions for both the Introduction to Textile Materials and the Quality Assurance classes. and interviews of students in the laboratory environment.

more than any other day may have influenced my wanting to seek a lab job. I think I may decide that I want to seek this as a profession.4 a semester of advanced laboratory work were compared for comfort level with. enrollment in the major has almost quadrupled.05). Students completing the upper level lab course showed higher levels of comfort with technology in general (p< . more understandable to me . We believe that the laboratory and the experiences now offered to our majors improved perceptions of program value and professionalism. Conclusions The efforts of the University of Northern Iowa’’s textiles and apparel program to improve the comfort and . The product development area. There is data that also suggests a positive impact upon perceptions of the value of majoring in textiles and apparel at the University of Northern Iowa. and with their understanding of lab results. Qualitative journal entries capture the importance of the link between understanding the meaning of the results and confidence level of the student.05) higher interest in pursuing a career in science when compared to the introductory students. is an ideal match for these students. working with analytical laboratory equipment (p< . there were qualitative results suggesting some students moved closer to pursuing a lab-based career. computers and software (p< .05). makes the class as a whole.”” The importance of hands-on lab experience on the process of confidence building is captured in this journal entry. Supporting this notion are recent placements which can be found in Table 3. which gave me negative experiences with a lab situation. students entering the curriculum rated their average interest in fashion a very high 4. Despite overall higher levels of comfort with science. . The sharpest increase in enrollment occurred shortly after the grant was awarded and the new laboratory was established. 2002). .05). and interest in science and technology. ““The fact that I feel confident in my work and that I now understand why and how these tests are done. This is likely due to the overwhelming interest in the fashion field. on a 5 point Lickert scale.81. Shown in Table 2 is a comparison of survey results between female students in our introductory textile and apparel industry course and students taking the upper level. During this time period. The more and more we do. and finally higher comfort deriving meaning from laboratory results (p< .”” Nevertheless. and is typically where our students are now being placed. laboratory-based course. requiring graduates with technical background and understanding of fashion trends. indicated by comments such as. in the past I didn’’t [have that understanding]. which draws students into the major. Shown in Figure 1 is a graph of student enrollment in the program from Spring semester 1999 to Spring semester 2003. Self-reporting a new desire for a career in science is apparently too far a stretch from the original motivation which caused them to declare a textile and apparel major in the first place. On the other hand. the advanced students did not self report a significantly (p< . For me personally it felt good to have [our teacher] expect me to show all my group members how to use the flammability tester and leave me to attend to any problems or adjustments with that machine”” (CR. For example. initial impressions of students that they are entering a field in which they will be working with ““fashion”” remained an overwhelming influence on student career choice. Our results indicate that our curriculum’’s evolution toward increasing lab experiences is having a significant impact on female student comfort level in the lab.05). thus contributing in part to rising enrollments. ““I would say that today. and a barrier to recruiting female students to science and technical careers not in some way linked to the concept of fashion. ““I think that doing the tests on your own is much more effective.

they do not express an interest in transitioning to science careers. and playing active roles in a lab setting. it does indicate that many of them are more confident to pursue the many positions within product development that now require background in science as well as an ability to work with fashion trends and theories. Purposeful mentoring between experienced female students and their less experienced peers created a lab environment which moved women from passive to active roles in the experimentation process. and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. have been successful in helping them understand the meaning of lab results in the real world of product development. On the other hand. Projects creating lab results that students use to evaluate the suitability of a textile for a specific end-use. While our research does not indicate high numbers of our students will become full-time scientists.5 confidence of its students in areas demanding high levels of science and technology appear to have born fruit. . __________ The material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. findings. Any opinions. Our research indicates that most students enter the textiles and apparel field because of interest in clothing and/or fashion. Hands-on exposure to state-of-the-art analytical testing equipment in our new materials evaluation laboratory have improved the students’’ comfort with high technology. 9952283. In summary. though the students report themselves as being more comfortable with science and technology. with little understanding that science and technology will be an important aspect to their education. it is not speculative to suggest that students entering into the textile and apparel industry will now be much less intimidated by technical and scientific responsibilities that they might encounter in the world-of-work.

6 Table 1. Laboratory Device General Test Area Type of Evaluation Sweating Guarded Hotplate Comfort ASTM F 1868 Thermal and Evaporative Resistance of Clothing Materials ASTM D 1518 Thermal Transmittance of Textile Materials Air Permeability Tester Comfort ASTM D 737 Air Permeability of Textile Materials Spectrophotometer Color Science Colorimetric Analysis of Dyed Fabric Launder-Ometer Colorfastness AATCC Method 16 Colorfastness to Laundering Weather-Ometer Colorfastness AATCC Method 169 Lightfastness of Textiles Crockmeter Colorfastness AATCC 8/165 Fastness to rubbing Martindale Abrasion Tester Durability ASTM 4966 Standard Test for Abrasion Resistance CRE Tensile Testing Durability ASTM D 5034 Grab Tensile ASTM D 2261 Tear Tensile Flammability Testing Safety ASTM D 1230 –– 45 Degree Test ASTM D 6413 –– Vertical Test Video Microscope Microscopy Microscopic Defect Analysis . List of laboratory equipment to which advanced textile students are exposed.

. p<.90 Comfort with Analytical Laboratory Equipment* 2. Data values derived from 5 point Lickert Scale.05 Interest in Science 2. Survey Comparing Science and Technology Interests Between Students in an Introductory Textile and Apparel Class and Those in an Upper Level Textile Materials Analysis Course.90 Comfort with Computers* and Software 3. * statistically significant difference in scoring between the two course.05.7 Table 2.81 3.95 Note.30 Comfort Deriving Meaning from Laboratory Results* 2.60 2.95 4.58 3. with 5 indicating maximum comfort or interest. Survey Questions Introductory Course Upper Level Course Comfort with Technology* 3.65 4.

Color Analyst Target Corporation -.Product Development Intern May Corporation -.Technical Sketch Artist and Product Development Lands' End –– Merchandising Von Maur Corporation -.Assistant Buyer .Design and Product Development Intern Merchandise Testing Laboratory -.8 Table 3.Assistant Technical Designer (2 placements) Lands' End -.Product Development Intern Target Corporation -.Technical Design and Specifications Cabela's Corporation -.Technical Specifications for Newborn / Infant / Toddler Target Corporation -. Summary of Recent Placements of University of Northern Iowa Textile and Apparel Majors Target Corporation -.Computer Aided Design Cabela's Corporation -.Assistant Buyer Younkers -.Quality Assurance for Product Development Target Corporation -.Textile Testing Internship Burberry Limited.Associate Technical Designer for Women and Girls May Company -. London -.Quality Assurance for Product Development Wal-Mart Corporation -.Technical Design Internship Betsy Johnson -.Fashion Trend Analysis and Merchandising for Kids Wal-Mart Corporation -.

Graph depicting the change in Textile and Apparel Majors at the University of Northern Iowa from Spring semester 1999 to Spring semester 2003. .9 Enrollment TAPP Student Enrollment Over Time 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Series1 S99 F99 S00 F00 S01 F01 S02 F02 S03 Semesters Figure 1.

Agins. Spring). M. 10-19. (1995). Gaskill. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal: 17 (1). B1. Bobbin. (1989. Private label programs: Major Changes. J. T. J. B. Quality assurance for textiles and apparel. Fox. 28+. Stores. C. (1989. J. (1998). E. Wall Street Journal. June). Big stores put own labels on best clothes. (1994. S. C. 70. B4. Profiling the career development of women fashion merchandising graduates: a beginning. Apparel retail product development: model testing and expansion. Brand erosion potential: Retailers seek gains in private label. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal: 13 (3). 35. R. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal: 7(3). & Damhorst. & Kean. J. L. (1999). J.. September 26). February). Fickes. New York: Fairchild Publications.. Adams. Private label: It=s coming around again. Wickett. 184-199. R. (1994. 71. Assessment of textiles and clothing academic programs in the United States.10 REFERENCES CITED Avery. L. L. . Laughlin. 33-39. M.. 21-35. (1993 December). 50-51. Chain Store Age Executive. Kadolph.